Jane O’Sullivan profiles a elegant environmentally friendly resort. This Phuket resort hides its green credentials behind a patina of elegant hospitality.
As a writer for Luxury Travel magazine, you don’t often find yourself picking up rubbish as part of an old-fashioned emu parade. Welcome to The Shore at Kata Noi. On the Andaman sea, on the south-western tip of Phuket in Thailand, local schoolchildren are busily filling up rubbish bags with plastic jetsam and bits and bobs rescued from the white sands of Kata Noi beach. This clean up effort is not the result of a community initiative but has been organised by a local resort group, owners of The Shore and Katathani Phuket Beach Resort. As a guest of The Shore I’ve joined with other guests to pitch in and help. It is rare for a Thai beach to get this sort of civic-minded TLC. Beaches are public, which means that while everyone gets to enjoy them, litter and rubbish can be a problem. Some might scoff that these clean up days probably don’t achieve much more than fuzzy feelings, but they do say a lot about how the owners of The Shore and Katathani like to tackle their environmental and community responsibilities – from the ground up.
The resorts stretch along almost the whole length of Kata Noi’s broad beach, which was struck by the 2005 Indian Ocean Tsunami, but was spared extensive damage and serious casualties. Katathani, the larger of the two properties, came first. The Shore is decidedly the more elegant of the two. It qualifies as a boutique resort by Phuket standards, with only 48 villas which climb, higgledy-piggledy, up the hill at the southern end of the beach. It opened in 2010 and its construction provided an opportunity to invest in major water and energy-saving technology. But apart from a few obvious signs in the rooms – cute little mock turtles to place in the bedroom or bathroom if you don’t want them cleaned, for example – many of these new eco credentials are invisible to guests.
A water treatment plant is hidden behind the hill and grey water is treated and reused in the hotel gardens. The freshwater consumed on the property comes from The Shore’s own supply, stored in a purpose-built reservoir, so there’s no demand placed on the municipal supply. Katathani and The Shore have also developed their own line of eco cleaning products which are all natural, organic and biodegradable as well as being phosphorus and nitrate free. Socially responsible projects include the provision of local housing options for staff and a hiring policy that gives preference to locals.
Other invisible initiatives are the use of solar power, with solar cells tucked away on the roof, and a bio-diesel project, which sees used cooking oil from all the group’s restaurants at The Shore and Katathani converted into bio-diesel fuel. This eco-focus has resulted in a swag of environmental awards but it’s not the only thing setting The Shore apart. Chatting with the architect and interior designer Charupun Wiriyawiwatt over a glass of wine, he explains that most resorts in Thailand are either heavily Asian in style, with dark woods and ornate detailing, or extremely Western and minimalist. The Shore, he believes, treads a delicate path in between. There’s a nod to Asia in the wooden floors of the semi-outdoor bathrooms and the sliding doors. Then there’s evidence of Western influences in the warm beige-and-hogbristle colour scheme and chandelier lighting in the bathrooms.
Perhaps his most striking addition is the sunken lounge nestled at the far end of the infinity pool (in the pool villas only). Try spending an hour or two lazing away in the sun with a good book and it’s hard to muster up the energy to complain – especially not after a hard day’s labour in the emu parade.